Thursday, 17 June 2010
Swimming Pool Projects
The Acting Chairman is well acquainted with the issues I propose to address during this debate. The difficulties that were experienced last September, when the swimming pool at the St. Vincent's Centre was closed due to a lack of funding for its refurbishment, represented a major setback for the Daughters of Charity, who run the centre. Swimming pools are of wonderful value - for rehabilitation purposes, for example - in centres where many people receive services on a residential or day care basis. The swimming pool has been closed for some time now. It was one of the first serious cutbacks in the services being provided to intellectually challenged people at the St. Vincent's Centre. As the Acting Chairman knows, the Daughters of Charity have been providing an excellent service at the centre, which is based on the Navan Road in Dublin, for a long period of time. Approximately 300 people are catered for there on a residential or day care basis. The centre is a well respected institution in the community.
A bombshell landed on the Daughters of Charity last month when the HSE indicated they would have to pare €4 million from their services by the end of the year. If they had been given that information six months ago, it would have been easier for them to adjust. The cuts will be exacerbated because they will have to be made in the remaining half of the year. They will be sharper in the areas in which they fall. The first requirement indicated by the HSE is that 56 staff members will have to be taken off the payroll. Overall staff numbers will have to be reduced from 1,046 to 990. A sanction in the form of a 5% cut has been threatened if quarterly targets are not achieved. These measures will affect the services being provided at the St. Vincent's Centre. The HSE has already instructed the closure of the Ard Cuan respite care centre on the Old Cabra Road by 30 June next. All service users, including their families, were only told about this on 8 June, which was very short notice. The entire service provided off-campus is closing down entirely.
On top of this, the respite care service at the Sancta Maria unit, on-campus at the Navan Road centre, will be reduced to being provided four nights, Monday to Thursday. The number of family support hours provided for will also be significantly reduced. The opening hours of Connect, the after-school club, will also be significantly reduced, while the annual summer camp will not be able to function because there is no money to provide support. Parents will have to pay for the transport of their children to Deck, another service provided in the summer, if it will be able to function, which is unlikely. The skills development programme will have to close for four weeks instead of the usual three in the summer. Staff members have been informed that they will have to take an extra week's holidays at their own expense or be redeployed to some other area. These are severe cutbacks which are being implemented in the middle of the summer. The management of St. Vincent's Centre is endeavouring to ensure residential and day care services will be maintained as well as possible for the remainder of the year.
As I said, the centre has already had to close its swimming pool owing to lack of funding for refurbishment. One would expect services provided for one of the most vulnerable sectors of the community - people with intellectual disabilities - would be the last to be hit, but they have been targeted in this case. I urge the Minister to consider what can be done to reverse these cutbacks. The cutbacks to funding for librarians in disadvantaged areas who were to be given the chop in August last year were reversed last week. This service was important, particularly in terms of promoting literacy and numeracy, and I am thankful the Minister saw fit to reverse that decision because much good work has been done. I now ask the Minister to consider reversing this €4 million cutback in the service provided by the Daughters of Charity in Dublin.
I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children. I thank the Deputy for raising it and I am pleased to take the opportunity to outline the position on funding for the Daughters of Charity services at St. Vincent's Centre, Navan Road, Dublin 7.
I reaffirm the Government's commitment to providing high quality services for all people with a disability under the national disability strategy which has the objective of putting in place the most effective combination of legislation, policies, institutional arrangements and services to support and reinforce equal participation for people with disabilities. The strategy is the framework being used to achieve positive and active measures to support the participation of people with disabilities in society. Government policy and best practice recognise that clients and service users need to be at the centre of service delivery. On an ongoing basis, we are examining the way in which services are delivered to ensure people with disabilities are provided with the best possible services in an efficient and appropriate manner.
The Government's commitment in the area of disability and mental health is consistent. Overall, approximately €1.6 billion is spent annually by the health service on disability programmes, including residential, day care, respite, assessments and rehabilitation services. In recent years significant additional resources have been provided for services and supports in this area. The multi-annual investment programme 2006-09, a key component of the Government's disability strategy, had by the end of 2008 provided for approximately 804 new residential places, 307 new respite places and 1,863 new day places for the intellectual disability service and 275 new residential places and 911,626 extra home care or personal assistance hours for people with physical and sensory disabilities.
The HSE has advised the Minister for Health and Children that it is very much aware of the valuable contribution of the services provided by the Daughters of Charity for people with intellectual disabilities in Dublin. During the period of the multi-annual investment programme the Daughters of Charity services received funding from the HSE in the region of €85.126 million in 2005, €94.748 million in 2006, €101.301 million in 2007, €106.790 million in 2008 and €110.542 million in 2009. This sustained level of additional investment reflected the significant growth and development of the Daughters of Charity services throughout this period.
The HSE is aware of the challenges service providers, including the Daughters of Charity, are experiencing and the particular difficulties facing all health services in 2010. In this context, it is vital that all providers work creatively and co-operatively to ensure the maximum level of service is maintained for service users within the funding resources available. The HSE plans to maintain access to appropriate treatments and services for clients during 2010, despite the current resource pressures. It is aware of the challenges which this reduction in allocation will present to organisations in ensuring they meet the needs of service users and in planning for emergencies that arise throughout the year. It is recognised that the maintaining of service levels within available resources will require significant levels of co-operation, change, flexibility and creativity. The HSE will continue to work in partnership with the voluntary service providers in dealing with issues that arise from funding allocations to ensure the needs of service users are prioritised and addressed.
Disability service providers have been requested to submit their plans for the maintenance of service levels within available resources. They have been asked to review all items of expenditure which do not immediately and directly affect front-line services and consider where rationalisation can be effected in other areas; review the manner in which services are delivered; identify any opportunities to reduce costs by sharing services and-or activities with other statutory or non-statutory agencies; reduce the cost of back office administration functions and all other unnecessary costs; and consider rationalising general management structures. The HSE will continue to work with voluntary service providers to streamline costs and identify areas in which efficiencies can be achieved without affecting front-line service delivery.